Good morning. It’s Monday, July 30, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few of our questions this week is Scott Webb, Co-Founder, PlaySquare. Co-founded with partners Alex Kay and Tinsley Galyan, PlaySquare is developing tablet-based Touchable Television, a next generation of kid’s media for the touchscreen generation – which is to say a group that doesn’t know the world without touchscreen interaction. A veteran creative media executive, primarily in the kid’s media arena, he was part of the team that developed and re-launched Nickelodeon. Webb went on to serve as Nickelodeon’s first Creative Director and helped the company expand into a range of media and businesses on, off air and eventually online, including its Creative Lab. Webb went on to toil as SVP/Creative Director at Oxygen Media, where he oversaw the re-launch, and then as Chief Creative Officer at Worldwide Biggies. In 2009 Webb co-founded Static-Free Media, a transmedia studio specializing in experience design across media platforms, as well as providing branding, strategy, development and production capabilities for a range of clients including Hasbro, Scholastic, The Whistle and American Movie Classics Networks.
For those of us who might not know, kids must do more than just watch Touchable Television, right? What happens?
PlaySquare is designed for kids to be a part of a story narrative. When the episode begins, a child is able to become involved in the story by finding things, making things, helping the characters and moving the story along. It’s a seamless transition between the video and the interactive segments.
What can you tell us about the first projects that PlaySquare is working on for Touchable Television?
We’ve licensed WordWorld as our first property and we’re producing a collection of touchable television episodes that are available for the iPad. “Happy Birthday Dog” is our first episode and it’s available now. We have several more episodes coming out in the fall.
While Touchable Television seems like a very natural extension for preschoolers – who adapt so easily to technology–do you think tween, teens and young adults will want to be part of the experience?
We see young kids as the first “touchscreen generation”. They expect their media devices to allow them to interact in all kinds of way with their media. So it’s a natural that we start with them. But we believe that interactive narrative is a new kind of media genre that will be entertaining for all different types of audiences in lots of different ways.
I think that tweens and teens, and even adults, HAVE adapted to technology and it’s not a very big leap to bring them stories or media experiences that they can be a more integral part of.
People in media used to say that teens were “fickle” when it came to figuring out what they’d like in terms of entertainment and advertising. Do you think that is still true?
I think advertisers and programmers spend a lot of time trying to figure out what teens are interested in. I don’t know about “fickle,” but I think teens have always been drawn to whatever is new and different from the previous generation and in that way they become an important indicator of where things are going. I think researchers find teens unpredictable and challenging and that will always be the case. Does “fickle” mean they like to try new stuff? I’d say, yes.
Throughout your career, you have been a creator and/or overseeing the creative direction of the network or project you were working on. How do you approach a new project? Do you have a set of questions you ask first to establish if it is a good idea or how you’ll achieve your goal?
I like to figure out what’s at the heart and soul of an experience and put myself in the role of audience for whatever I’m working on. I try and figure out what it makes me feel, what feels true, and what about it makes me care. If I can understand those things, I can understand why and how to share the experience with others.
The goal is always to get the audience involved in the product, whether the product is a thing or a show or an entire network. One of the things my teams have tried to do is to see what we’re offering as more than just a commodity, but as a “cause” and to create a rallying cry for that cause. It makes the process less about the various tasks at hand and more like fulfilling a mission. Hopefully a mission that becomes popular and that people love.
Can you tell us about what you consider your greatest success — and what you learned from that experience?
Being part of the team that re-launched Nickelodeon in 1983 was definitely the greatest working experience I’ve ever had. At that time, Nickelodeon was considered the Green Vegetables network it was television that was “good for you” but not very appealing.
The big lesson I learned was that we weren’t just trying to get kids to watch television, we were trying to make the world a better place for kids by understanding them and meeting them where they were (not where we “wanted them to be”). It was a mission that became very personal for me; we were encouraged to take risks and be “kid-like” ourselves and that process wound up not only nailing things like Voice and Attitude for the network, it also created an environment where each one of us on the team were supported in doing our very best work… giving the very best we had to offer… and I think that’s what helped make Nickelodeon so magical.
Is there a kid’s character from your childhood who still inspires you today?
Let’s just say I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t own a custom-made Spiderman suit. I think that says it all.
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LICENSING France-based animation house Alphanim appoints TeamWorks to represent the new CGI animated series incarnation of the iconic Calimero (104×11), a young chicken character that dons a partial egg shell. The news comes on the heels of RAI (Italy) acquiring the rights to air the series. Produced by Alphanim with TF1 (France), the new Calimero series is slated to begin airing in 2013-14, which will dovetail with the 50th anniversary of the property. Alphanim distributes the program and manages the brand internationally on behalf of rights owner Calidra. The new series is based on Calimero, a popular Italian character created in 1963 by Nino Pagot, Toni Pagot and Ignazio Colnaghi for a series soap advertisements that ran on RAI through the 1960s and 70s. Starting in the 1970s 70+ hours (290 episodes) of a Calimero series were produced and aired in 79 countries.
Scholastic adds new ebook titles from Trajectory, a technology and marketing centric publisher, to its kid-targeted eReading Storia app (www.scholastic.com/storia). Under the new deal, a selection of Trajectory’s classic illustrated books will be offered as ebooks, such as A Christmas Carol, The Jungle Book, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, and Cinderella. Titles can be purchased via Scholastic Book Clubs beginning November 2012. The Storia eReading app is currently available for free download for PCs and iPad, and beginning this fall for Android tablets and smartphones. The app comes with five free titles, with the full library comprised of 2,000+ titles for kids of all ages.
DHX Media enters into a deal with EMI for a second album for its stop-frame animated preschool series Rastamouse. EMI has released the new single, titled Run Wid’ Me, which is available for download on iTunes. In other licensing news, DHX Media has also completed a deal with Amscan International for a line of foil balloons that will be available in the UK and Ireland from Q3 2012. Produced and animated in the UK by Three Stones Media, the second season of Rastamouse is set to debut on CBeebies (UK) in August 2012.
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MORE KIDS STUFF The UK satellite service BSkyB acquires Parthenon Media Group, an indie international distributor and multi-media rights manager, and in doing so will form its own distribution arm to market the international rights to its own original content. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. BSkyB says, “The new in-house model will help generate additional revenues from Sky’s content investment from the sale of overseas rights, which will enable Sky to reinvest even more in the UK’s creative economy, for the benefit of customers and content makers alike.” BSkyB reports that in 2012 it has invested some US $709,000 in commissioning British content as well as production. The satcaster expects that number to increase to upwards of $1 million a year by 2014, with most of the growth aimed at genres such as drama, comedy, entertainment, arts and factual. BSkyB has also inked kid content specific deals for its Sky Go online service with eight kid TV channels, which will make content from Disney, Nickelodeon, Nick Junior and Cartoon Network, among others, available streaming on demand on various devices. The addition of kid content comes at the start of summer vacation. With the addition of the kid channels, Sky Go customers have access to live or on demand programming from across 32 channels.
Disney XD will premiere TRYathlon, a new special that supports its TRYit initiative that encourages kids to get outside and try something new, on Monday, August 13 at 8p. The special features professional sports stars, including the NFL’s Arian Foster (Houston Texans), the WNBA’s Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) and the NBA’s Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) coaching Disney XD stars Leo Howard and Olivia Holt (Kickin’ It), Billy Unger and Spencer Boldman (Lab Rats) and Doc Shaw and Adam Hicks (Pair of Kings) as they team with three viewers to compete in challenges that test their skills and their teamwork. The new special is hosted by Hal Sparks and Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats). The effort will be supported via online with both the TRYit Challenger, where kids and families can pledge to challenge themselves in new ways at www.disneyxd.com/try, and with the Tuesday, July 31 launch of the new Summer TRYathlon Mash-up game on DisneyXD.com. Disney XD’s TRYathlon is part of Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living, which is designed to encourage kids and families to make healthy eating choices and get physically active.
The new Disney Junior special, Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake Saves Bucky, will premiere in primetime on Disney Channel, Wednesday, September 19 (7-8p), which coincides with International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Watch Disney Channel will simulcast the special in conjunction with the TV premiere, and will then be available the following day on Watch Disney Junior and DisneyJunior.com. September 19 will also see the debut of the new short-form series Playing with Skully on both Disney Channel, first at 9:55a (and then multiples times over the course of the day) as well as airing on Disney Junior. As in Jake and the Never Land Pirates, David Arquette stars as the voice of Skully in Playing with Skully. To promote the Jake Saves Bucky special, beginning Friday, August 31, Jake’s Heroic Race, a group of four mini-games based on the special, will launch on www.disneyjunior.com/jakesavesbucky, along with a pirate name generator, and new printable coloring pages. Additionally, a full-length preview of Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake Saves Bucky will be available via Disney Channel on Demand on September 12.
Transformers Rescue Bots, the animated action/adventure series targeted to kids, will debut on DVD with the first title Transformers Rescue Bots: Roll To The Rescue on October 2, 2012. From Shot! Factory Kids, in collaboration with producer Hasbro Studios, the title includes five episodes as well as bonus content and coloring sheets. Transformers Rescue Bots currently airs on The Hub in the US and Treehouse in Canada. Executive produced by Jeff Kline (Transformers Prime), the series features a voiceover cast including LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Lacey Chabert (Party of Five), Steve Blum (Transformers Prime), Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) and the Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime.
Ziggy & Friends teams with the Foundation for Global Skin Health Strategies to launch a new app, Ziggy’s Best Birthday ($.99). Targeted to kids 18 months to 5 years, the new app, which stars comic strip star Ziggy, is an interactive video and features a story that underlines the importance of skin protection and the long-term health issues related to sun damage. The app is available for download via iTunes. The app has three different modes, Read To me, Read Myself and Auto Play. Ziggy continues to serve as an official “spokescharacter” for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ziggy was created by cartoonist Tom Wilson Sr. in 1971, who went on to establish Ziggy & Friends, Inc. in 1978. Since 1987, Ziggy has been drawn by Wilson’s son Tom Wilson Jr., who also heads the company.
Jakks Pacific has acquired 24-year-old, Ohio-based Maui, Inc., a manufacturer/distributor of outdoor activity toys and sports related toys including Maui Toys’ popular Wave Hoop and Sky Ball. The deal, the terms of which were not released, sees Jakks Pacific purchase all of Maui, which was privately held, as well as its Hong Kong-based affiliate A.S. Design Limited. Stephen Berman, CEO and President, Jakks Pacific explained that in addition to adding to its portfolio of non-licensed, proprietary brands, Jakks expects the acquisition of Maui Toys will enhance its product portfolio and diversify its distribution. Jakks expects that the Maui acquisition will be accretive to earnings in 2013. The determination of the impact to 2012 is subject to completion of the purchase price allocation for 2012, which has not yet been completed.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; July 27-29, 2012:
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $64.1m-2 wk total $289.1m
Ice Age: Continental Drift (FOX) PG $13.3m-3 wk total $114.8m
Step Up Revolution (Lionsgate) PG-13 Opening Weekend $11.8m
The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony) PG-13 $6.8m-4 wk total $242.1m
Brave (Disney) PG $4.2m-6 wk total $217.3m
Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) PG-13 $1.4m-19 wk total $38.4m
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Lionsgate) PG-13 $1.3m-5 wk total $62.7m
Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight) PG-13 $914,000-5 wk total $4.2m
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Paramount) PG $860,000-8 wk total $209.5m
Katy Perry: Part Of Me (Paramount) PG $540,000-4 wk total $24.1m
Source: Rentrak ( www.rentrak.com )
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 1205; K6-11 821; TWEENS 9-14 717
NICKELODEON° : K2-11 939; K6-11 580; TWEENS 9-14 515
CARTOON NETWORK** : K2-11 758; K6-11 513; TWEENS 9-14 431
DISNEY XD: K2-11 252; K6-11 214; TWEENS 9-14 210
NICKTOONS: K2-11 110; K6-11 74; TWEENS 9-14 60
°Nickelodeon Total Day: Mon-Thurs 7a-8p; Fri 7a-9p; Sat 6a-10p; Sun 6a-8p
**Cartoon Network & Adult Swim share channel space ADSM airs Sat.-Thurs. 9p-6a
Source: Disney from Nielsen Media Research Data
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